CAMPAIGNERS have called on Scots families to boycott a care home provider which said designated visitors will require to have been vaccinated before they can see loved ones.

In a letter to families, Barchester Healthcare, which runs around 200 homes across the UK including 19 in Scotland, said that visitors should also be prepared to produce proof they have received the jag.

The First Minister said on Tuesday that vaccinations would not be a pre-requisite for indoor visits and the Scottish Government has now written to the firm asking for an urgent meeting.

Scotland’s clinical director Jason Leitch said yesterday that he was “disappointed” by the actions of Barchester and said the layers of protection in place, including 100% vaccination of residents, PPE, testing and hand washing was sufficient to allow visits to resume.

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New guidelines state that care homes should support two visitors to see family members twice a week from early March or sooner if it can be facilitated. Figures released today show that care home deaths have fallen by 69%.

The Health Secretary said the new guidance means contact with loved ones should become ‘normal practice’ in adult care homes in all but exceptional circumstances, such as a Covid-19 outbreak.

She added: “We hope to gradually increase the frequency and the number of people who can visit.”

Cathie Russell, who has led a campaign calling for indoor visits to resume, said she would be advising families who are looking for a care home to avoid those run by the firm.

She said: “I would say to anyone considered a care home is to avoid Barchester until this is clarified.

“Barchester have always been very mean with visiting and gone down the road of having these dreadful glass screens.

"If you look on Twitter you will see videos of people with dementia clawing at the glass to get to their loved ones. It is inhumane and pitiful.

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“Barchester do not own our relatives. They have the privilege of looking after them but they are not theirs to imprison.

“We have had a very good response from most providers who realise that the vaccine programme is going well.”

She said it was hoped that care homes would interpret the new visiting guidance “generously”.

The First Minister has said the intention is to have the over 50s and those with underlying health conditions vaccinated by April 15.

Barchester said it intends to write to the Scottish and UK governments to lobby for visitors to be fast-tracked for vaccines and said all staff will be required to have been vaccinated by April 23, “although we are prepared to delay that date if there is any data regarding safety, efficacy or effect on transmission which requires further review.”

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A spokeswoman for Barchester Healthcare said: “We are looking forward to having visitors back in our homes in an appropriately safe manner. 

"As such we think it is important to take a cautious and phased approach, ensuring the one designated visitor per resident or patient is supported in complying with the protocols including the use of PPE and being tested using a Lateral Flow Device test before entering a home, and our desire is that they are also vaccinated, if possible.

“In order to support this, we are lobbying with the Government for designated visitors to be prioritised for a vaccination.

"We are engaging with relatives and residents and taking a phased and cautious approach.”